Sunday, May 20, 2007

Must they all be Mister?

Recently, I was interviewed for the Q&A that will go in the reader’s guide for Orange Mint and Honey. The interviewer was great, with really interesting questions about why I made the choices I made in the story. One of the questions was: Was it a political choice for me to make Oliver (the young love interest) a good guy? I answered as I did with most of the questions about the characters: It wasn’t a choice. That’s just who Oliver is.

A week later my critique group (which is quite diverse, though I’m the only black person) looked at the first 78 pages of my next novel. One of the comments was that the 2 husbands (who are both black, while one of the wives is white) seemed “too nice.” Now, admittedly both these guys aren’t fleshed out enough. It was a quick first draft and I ran out of time to devote to make them more dimensional. But, they’re still going to be good men. One of the women in the group (a Latina) gave my pages to a couple of her African American girlfriends and reported that they said if such men existed they wanted to meet them.

Has it really come to a point when people don’t believe that nice (not saintly) black men actually exist? When a writer has to justify good black men as characters? If so, now it is a political choice for me to write about good black men. And let me make it clear that I don’t mean as role models for real men, but to model the reality that I know. There are lots of wonderful black men out there and they can’t be all just in my family!

Pearl Cleage's books are filled with stand-up black men...I wonder if anybody asked her why.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Interesting! Sounds to me like your readers are watching the wrong TV shows or watching too many BET/MTV/VH1 videos, or hanging out in the wrong clubs. Perhaps they need to expand their horizons? Black men come in all shapes, sizes and attitudes--good and bad. Perhaps, these females need to be receptive to the "good" Black men even if they are overweight, too dark or not "thugged-out" enough?